biology zoology blog benno meyer in search of new worlds

In Search of new Worlds

On our good old planet Earth

There is no doubt in my mind that even today in the age of biotechnology and molecular genetics, to discover a new species of plant or animal, to unravel a complex, biochemical pathway, to learn to understand how the brain processes information or to elucidate some component of the neuronal network of an organism and figure out how memory works – they represent exciting moments in the life of a biologist. —>—>

biology zoology blog benno meyer worms

Abound with Wormy Things

That is the world we live in

Many things are worm-shaped: spaghetti, shoe laces, leeches, snakes, eels… There must be something about being thin and limbless. The typical worm-like body is, of course, eminently suited to explore and move through narrow crevices and gaps of small dimensions and to roll or coil up to reduce the exposed body surface area in times of danger. But worm does not equal worm and zoologically speaking bookworms, flatworms, ribbonworms, arrowworms, earthworms, roundworms and wireworms have as little in common as cuttlefish have with jellyfish, shellfish have with catfish and silverfish have with starfish. —>—>

biology zoology blog benno meyer gut feeling

Have you also had that “Gut Feeling”?

Maybe it was a tapeworm

Tapeworms are not the most pleasant guests to entertain in your intestine, but zoologically they are some of the weirdest and most interesting animals I can think of. They live in the gut, but they themselves have none; they reproduce sexually, but don’t need a partner (they practice self-fertilization), which should preclude genetic variety; they are evolutionary far more ancient than their vertebrate hosts, so how did they get there; they are not terribly common, but each one of them can produce millions of eggs; they are usually not dangerous, but one species (the dog tapeworm Echinococcus) can be deadly in humans, if by mistake larvae get into a human body causing hydatidosis or a cyst in the lungs, which my first wife almost died from as a child. And talking about life cycles: actually the larvae of most tapeworms awaits a nightmarish search to find their suitable final hosts (see below). —>—>